Psyching the Zeitgeist:
Current Culture Through a Mental Health Lens

Is Online Counseling for You?

by Judy Koven

I just read a short piece in the New York Times about Lantern, a new option for people seeking online therapy for problems such as anxiety, sleep issues, and eating disorders.  Lantern offers a way for someone to receive an initial screening, phone consultation and then online daily exercises from a licensed therapist, using cognitive behavioral therapy tools such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and other self-help techniques.

The developer of the program emphasizes that it doesn’t replace therapy, as it doesn’t diagnose or provide services needing an in-person assessment. The counselors, who are called coaches, provide encouragement and offer guidance and tools, not therapy, using Lantern’s tools.

It seems that this could be a useful, convenient resource for those experiencing mild or transient distress. The developers of Lantern describe it as being somewhere in between a self-help book and individual psychotherapy.

It’s worth noting that as useful and convenient as these counseling tools may be, they lack the unique benefits of working face-to-face with a therapist. When a client and a therapist work in person, they build a strong alliance that studies have shown to be a significant factor in clients’ healing and growth.